Household chemicals: management of intoxication and antidotes

  • Christine Rauber-Lüthy
  • Hugo Kupferschmidt
Part of the Experientia Supplementum book series (EXS, volume 100)


Exposure to household products is very common, but in industrialized countries severe or fatal poisoning with household products is rare today, due to the legal restriction of sale of hazardous household products. The big challenge for physicians, pharmacologists and toxicologists is to identify the few exceptional life-threatening situations where immediate intervention is needed. Among thousands of innocuous products available for the household only very few are hazardous. Substances found in these products include detergents, corrosives, alcohols, hydrocarbons, and some of the essential oils. The ingestion of batteries and magnets and the exposure to cyanoacrylates (super glue) can cause complications in exceptional situations. Among the most dangerous substances still present in household products are ethylene glycol and methanol. These substances cause major toxicity only through their metabolites. Therefore, initial symptoms may be only mild or absent. Treatment even in asymptomatic patients has to be initiated as early as possible to inhibit production of toxic metabolites. For all substances not only the compound itself but also the route of exposure is relevant for toxicity. Oral ingestion and inhalation generally lead to most pronounced symptoms, while dermal exposure is often limited to mild irritation. However, certain circumstances need special attention. Exposure to hydrofluoric acid may lead to fatal hypocalcemia, depending on the concentration, duration of exposure, and area of the affected skin. Accidents with hydrocarbon pressure injectors and spray guns are very serious events, which may lead to amputation of affected limbs. Button batteries normally pass the gastrointestinal tract without problems even in toddlers; in rare cases, however, they get lodged in the esophagus with the risk of localized tissue damage and esophageal perforation.


Dermal Exposure Clin Toxicol Cationic Detergent Household Chemical Toxic Principle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag/Switzerland 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Rauber-Lüthy
    • 1
  • Hugo Kupferschmidt
    • 1
  1. 1.Swiss Toxicological Information Centre (STIC)ZürichSwitzerland

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